Question: "What does it mean that wine is a mocker (Proverbs 20:1)?"

Answer: The book of Proverbs says that “wine is a mocker” and that “beer is a brawler” and that “whoever is led astray by them is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1). The Bible frequently refers to wine, sometimes in positive ways when describing something satisfying (Song of Songs 7:9) or celebratory (Ecclesiastes 9:7), and sometimes metaphorically in negative ways when describing God’s judgment (Psalm 75:8) and wrath (Revelation 14:10).

A mocker is somebody who is hostile to a life of righteousness and ridicules all who would oppose him. Saying that “wine is a mocker” is a way of describing someone who succumbs to its influence: a drunk person tends to mock virtue and scoff at the things of God. As a whole, the book of Proverbs provides instructions for living a wise and virtuous life—by avoiding actions that end up harming oneself and others. In Proverbs 20:1 specifically, wine and beer are personified in their victims—they are enemies of wisdom who lead others astray. It can be said, then, that wine “mocks” the one who lives a self-controlled and righteous life, because such a life is the opposite of one enslaved to alcohol.

The statement wine is a mocker is a warning against the harmful ways a person is affected by consuming too much wine. Consuming too much wine (or any alcoholic beverage) negatively affects one’s thinking and behavior, which could lead to sinful actions. Those who consume too much wine give themselves over to its influence and allow it to control their bodies. In a sense, then, the wine “mocks” their lack of self-control.

The Bible frequently warns against consuming too much alcohol because of how it can lead to sinful behavior. For example, Paul commands believers not to get drunk on wine because it leads to debauchery, or indulging in sinful pleasures (Ephesians 5:18). In 1 Timothy 3:8, Paul commands Timothy to appoint deacons in the church who do not indulge in much wine. While wine and other alcoholic beverages can be safely consumed without leading to sin, we should pay close attention to the Bible’s strong warnings against excessive consumption. Too much alcohol can lead to sinful behaviors that “mock” the righteous, virtuous life God calls us to live.